It is a picture-perfect day, Memorial Day in North Berwick in 2010, where hundreds of patriotic citizens gather by the war memorial in the center of town, many clutching small American flags, waiting for the bands and veterans to pass by.

The gentle warmth of spring sunshine makes the waiting easy.

My eyes catch two little girls, pretty in matching pink spring dresses, blond curls cascading around their faces with their dimples and round cheeks, kissed by the day’s sunshine. They are clearly sisters.

They sit on the lawn with their legs tucked up under their skirts, their hands holding small American flags that they lazily wave back and forth while they patiently wait for the parade to arrive.

Ba boom. Ba boom. Ba boom boom boom. The sounds of the bass drums grow more distinct. “Here they come!” announces an excited youngster. As the honor guard approaches the waiting crowd, the Noble Middle School band begins to play the opening bars of “America, the Beautiful.”

The little girls I’d spotted earlier now stand and wave their flags with enthusiasm. When the color guard passes by them, they each execute a snappy and perfect salute.

Someone, perhaps a beloved grandfather, veteran of a foreign war, or even a dad or a mom now deployed, has taught them about respecting the flag and how to do a proper salute.

The Noble High School band parades by with snares and bass drums loudly stamping out the beat of the various service songs. First the Army song: “Over hill, over dale, we will hit the dusty trail — and those caissons keep rolling along.”

I think of Dad, Maine Medal of Honor recipient, Edward Dahlgren. And then the Marine Corps hymn: “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we will fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea.” I glance at my Marine husband, who salutes as his song is played.

The Air Force anthem, Navy Hymn and Coast Guard song follow, and then the honor guard with paper poppies in hand lines up behind a row of upturned helmets.

As the names of fallen soldiers from World War I to now is read, a poppy is gently placed in an empty helmet, signifying for all of us that there continue to be soldiers who go off to war and don’t return to their homes.

Several speakers follow, including Rep. Mark Eves who begins his address with the following words: “Freedom isn’t free in the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

At the end of the ceremony, the band plays again. “Our country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty.” The crowd sings along and as I look across the way, I see the two sisters in pink dresses once again waving their flags and singing the familiar words of this old song.

So long as the youngest among us bear witness to what it means to be an American, perhaps our country will endure. God Bless America.

– Special to the Telegram